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The Idea File

The Climate Hellscape Is Coming, and Capitalism Can't Save Us

Dec 05, 2019 | 16 videos
Video by The Atlantic

In her 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein coined the term disaster capitalism, which refers to the tendency of free markets and governments to respond opportunistically to catastrophic events. This phenomenon of extreme capitalism has troubling implications when it comes to climate change. As the staff writer Alexis C. Madrigal suggests, you can’t buy your way out of a warming planet.

In a new episode of The Idea File, Madrigal explains how disaster capitalism will manifest as weather conditions become more dire. In some places, this has already begun to happen—Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, for example, turned to private firefighters to protect their mansion from the Woolsey fire in California. And in the aftermath of the fires, an emerging market of gadgets targeted the intersection of consumer culture and catastrophe.

“I think there are moral implications to taking things that were collective and making them individual,” Madrigal says in the video. “Richer people are going to get better service than poor people, across the board.”

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Authors: Sophia Myszkowski, Catherine Spangler

About This Series

Deconstructing the way we live, with The Atlantic's writers